Thursday, September 2, 2010

The Fascinating Input of Flavour: Vegan Meat and Yoghurt Flavourings

We know that taste is largely dependent on smell: The combined process has its own word in English, flavour. But have you stopped to think that the fragrance industry is taking the matter of flavour into a most sophisticated level? Apart from the rather standard flavourings one meets in beverages, canned foods, prepackaged meals and desserts, there lurks a whole fascinating world of unusual and as of yet uncharted territories of flavour ingredients and molecules which might give us pause for thought in the near future.

According to Datamonitor, Comax Flavors, a company with a strong presence in the industry, has launched a line of kosher vegetarian meat flavors for meat analogues from sources such as soy and wheat to serve the needs of vegetarians and vegans, an increasing percentage in the US, the United Kingdom and Asia, who do not consume meat products but -apparently- like the flavour of animal-sourced food. Faux meat if you please. The Comax products include roasted chicken, roast beef, bacon, pork, hot dog, turkey and roasted ham flavourings. The interesting bit is that flavors are available in a variety of permutations: natural and artificially flavored, oil soluble and water soluble, and liquid and powdered versions.
"To the casual observer, creating vegetarian meatless-meat flavors may seem like a relatively generic job for a flavor developer, but it actually holds its own special challenges. For instance, it’s very important that such flavors be strong enough to stand up to highly-absorbent vegetable proteins. Through the art of reaction technology, Comax is able to provide ingredients that replace and enhance the flavors of meats while still keeping the final product in line with vegetarian consumption. Applications where these flavors tend to be most advantageous are broths, sauces and marinades, but they come in handy for a whole range of other meatless products as well.” So say Gladys Slovis, applications lab manager.

But not everything revolves around meat either! Comax is intent on the marketing of coconut water flavours (due to the high potassium quota) and a pleiad of sweet & savoury flavourings to be used in Greek yoghurt, often reminiscing classical Greek delicasies such as baklava. The rest of the flavours include cinnamon bun, cucumber (obviously the prime ingredient in a good tzatziki, hold the garlic) and cherry black currant.
"With its unique body, silky mouthfeel and satisfying richness, Greek yogurt offers the ideal vehicle to showcase ... true-to-life flavors to suit a given product application," adds applications lab manager Gladys Slovis. "Even at 0% fat, Greek yogurts taste decadently rich.” We couldn't disagree, even though we prefer our baklava on the side.

Further reading: Bell Flavors & Fragrances present the 10 "trends" in the way of smells for 2010 (including grapefruit rhubarb rose, Seashore driftwood, White amber/patchouli, Mahogany vetiver, Absinthe, Mandarin/orange blossom, Mojito, Woody iris, Satinwood and Szechwan pepper. Now you know why your contemporary fragrance is smelling the way it does.

photo via seattleweekly blogs (possibly subject unrelated to Comax)


  1. Mmmm, I would buy cinnamon bun yogurt.

  2. Interesting post, and one that is very close to home, as I regularly serve up "faux meat" to my other half, a life long vegetarian. However, he does have a problem with meat substitutes that are shaped to resemble meat OR taste as he dimly remembers meat tasting(aged 12). Anything remotely "barbecued" in flavour is a complete turn off, even if genuinely vegetarian. So no smoked paprika, for example. I tell you, it is not easy finding stuff for him that is both "kosher" and palatable.

  3. This is just silly.

    I mean, I'm no way against artificial flavours as such but making faux meat from cauliflower that tastes like meat... eh, on one hand I can understand it, one doesn't eat meat for some philosophical reason but they like the taste. It seems to me like being, say, Catholic, but without going to the church and fasting on Friday because that's not so comfy and entertaining.
    But I might be wrong.

    On the other hand, when there's that much artificial flavouring around, why the hell we still don't have L'Heure Bleue bonbons (if not a stew?)

  4. KJ,

    so would I! Sounds yummy :-)

  5. Flitter,

    an interesting (if vexing) problem to be sure! So it's both optical as well as olfactory/tasting parameters that affect the decisions. I wouldn't have thought it. Goes to show you. And here I was, arranging eggplant salad on the plate to resemble a rooster (putting potato chips for feathers and carrots for beak etc)...My guests of a vegetarian inclination might find it less than artistic, then?

  6. Liisa,

    I am not the proper person to talk on this as I have no problem with meat. But perhaps the flavour is contributed by other ingredients contributing alongside the meaty stuff and vegetarians miss those other ingredients or the effect they produce? I really can't imagine.

    Good question on the bonbons though! It seems like there WERE bonbons in perfume-like flavours (rosy or violet or other flavours) in eras past, as far as I can hear from elders who should know (and notice). But we're too young for them I guess, recent research has shown customers tie fruit flavours with uplifting and freshness and thus everything from supermarket shower gels to chewing gum is now aromatized with fruit....erghhh...

    Anyway, we STILL have traditional pastilles around here in more unusual (and pleasing IMO) flavours such as rose, anise or mastic/lentisque: they far surpass the artificial plastic fruity stuff in the aroma stakes. L'Heure Bleue, alas, no, no yet. Maybe popping one anise and a vanilla one, might resemble it a bit? :-)

  7. Anonymous22:07

    Just to chime in here on this topic, as a perfume lover who largely avoids meat:
    I buy very few fake meats, but they are sometimes a necessity for two reasons:

    —there are too many cookbooks with wonderful recipes vegetarians want to try but can't because the recipe calls for a bit of meat here or there, and certain meat substitutes serve as acceptable stand-ins.
    —we miss the delicious flavor of meat.

    by the way, I really, really enjoy your blog!

  8. Anon,

    thanks for your kind words and may I say I am pleased there is enjoyment to be provided here :-)

    Now, you say "we miss the delicious flavor of meat". Ah...I was thinking about vegetarians actually repulsed by meat (not just focusing on the philosophical aspects of meat abstinence). You do put things into perspective.
    Thanks for clarifying this for me.


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